You don’t have to restrict your outdoor culinary activities to using either charcoal or smoking chunks. You can use both to smoke delicious meats and veggies, with the charcoal providing the heat and the smoking chunks providing the flavorful smoke. It’s a simple but highly effective combination that will take your cookouts to the next level. When using charcoal and smoking chunks together, though, you should position them correctly in your smoker or grill. So, can you place smoking chunks directly over charcoal?

Yes, You Can Place Smoking Chunks Directly Over Charcoal

Because of their thick composition, you can place smoking chunks directly over charcoal. When preparing to smoke meats or veggies, go ahead and light your charcoal. Once they’ve turned white — this usually takes about a half-hour — sprinkle a handful of smoking chunks directly over the smoldering charcoal. The smoking chunks should burn slowly, all while releasing flavorful smoke that’s absorbed into your meats or veggies.

While smoking chunks are perfectly fine to place directly over charcoal, you shouldn’t place smoking chips over charcoal. Smoking chips are similar to smoking chunks, only they are smaller and thinner. As a result, they’ll quickly burn when exposed to direct heat. If you place smoking chips directly over charcoal, they’ll release some smoke, but it won’t be enough to create a truly distinct and rich smokey flavor.

Placing Smoking Chunks Away From Charcoal

Alternatively, you can place your smoking chinks away from the smoldering charcoal. Even if you’re using a standard grill, you can still create two separate piles: one for the charcoal and another for the smoking chunks. With the smoking chunks located next to the charcoal rather than directly on it, they’ll burn more slowly.

Use a Smoker Box for Smoking Chunks

Another way to prevent your smoking chunks from burning too quickly is to use a smoker box. A smoker box a metallic container, typically square or rectangular shaped, that’s used to store smoking chunks or smoking chips. Just open the lid of the smoker box, place your smoking chunks inside and close the lid. You can then place the smoker box directly over your charcoal. The smoker box creates a barrier between your smoking chunks and the charcoal, encouraging the wood chunks to burn more slowly.  Smoker boxes are available for as little as $5 to $10, making them a smart investment for serious home chefs.

Use a Foil Pan

If you don’t have a smoker box, a foil pan can work almost as well when smoking meats or veggies. Just fill an appropriately sized foil pan about half to three-quarters full of smoking chunks, and then place it over your smoldering charcoal. The foil pan acts in a similar way as a smoker box, creating a barrier of insulation between your smoking chunks and charcoal. And like a smoker box, you can usually reuse foil pans multiple times. Just clean out any wood ash from the bottom, at which point you can place it back inside your grill or smoker for another round of cooking.

Control the Temperature

Whether you place your smoking chunks directly over the charcoal, next to the charcoal, or if you use a separate accessory like a smoker box or foil pan, you’ll need to control the temperature of your grill or smoker. If your smoking chunks aren’t releasing smoke, the temperature is too low. If your smoking chunks are burning to ash in just a few minutes, the temperature is too high.

To control the temperature of your grill or smoker, use the air vents. You should see at least two air vents on your grill or smoker. Start by leaving both of these vents partially open. As your smoking chunks begin to burn, monitor the temperature to determine whether you need to make it hotter or cooler. If the temperature is too low, you can make your grill or smoker hotter by opening the air vents more. If it’s too high, you can make it cooler by closing the air vents. With that said, you’ll usually need to keep both air vents at least partially open in order for your fuel, including charcoal and smoking chunks, to stay lit.

Add More Smoking Chunks As Needed

Even if you don’t expose your smoking chunks to direct heat, they’ll still burn down to ash eventually. It may take an hour or even longer, but smoking chunks don’t last forever. For the best possible flavor, add more smoking chunks as needed. When you discover your smoking chunks have burned down to ash, add a few more to keep the smoke going.

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